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BoA-Merrill's Mike Joo appointed COO for global markets

The effective head of Korea DCM moves to New York to focus on strategy, support and supervision for the firm's global sales and trading business.

Mike Joo, who has been running Merrill Lynch's debt capital markets business in North Asia with a focus primarily on Korea since he joined the firm at the end of 2006, has been promoted to chief operating officer for global markets at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. This is a global role that will see him relocate from Hong Kong to New York.

Joo's new job, which is effective immediately, will make him responsible for strategy and business support as well as business supervision for the bank's global sales and trading business across both equities and fixed-income, according to an internal memo issued last week. He will also run the Principal Administrative Office. The COOs for individual businesses will report both to Joo and the heads of their respective lines of business.

He will work under and report to Tom Montag, a former Goldman Sachs banker who was hired by Merrill in April 2008 to head global sales and trading -- a division that was renamed global markets after the US investment bank was taken over by Bank of America at the beginning of this year. Montag reports directly to BoA-Merrill's CEO Kenneth Lewis.

Joo moved to Merrill from Credit Suisse a couple of months after his former boss at Credit Suisse, Jon Pratt, joined Merrill in September 2006 as head of DCM for Asia ex-Japan. In February 2007, Pratt brought over another three debt specialists from Credit Suisse as he continued to build his team at Merrill. When Pratt was let go in January this year as part of the downsizing efforts underway following the takeover by Bank of America, Joo was elevated to head of Asia DCM (excluding Japan, Australia and India).

Until then, Joo was head of North Asia DCM, which made him responsible for building relationships with Korea's frequent borrowers in the international debt markets. Over the past couple of years, he has been driving a trend that has seen Korean borrowers tap into investor demand in specific markets outside Asia through the issuance of local currency bonds -- first in Brazil and Turkey, and then last year in Mexico and Malaysia -- reducing their cost of funding and providing continued access to funds in spite of the turmoil in the G3 markets.

The first ever Malaysian ringgit bond by a Korean issuer (Export-Import Bank of Korea, or Kexim), in February 2008, for which Merrill acted as a financial adviser, was followed by a flurry of other issuers tapping into this market and the trade was copied by other investment banks. Merrill also advised on ringgit bonds for Industrial Bank of Korea, Woori Bank and Hyundai Capital and, according to its own calculations, worked on $846 million worth of ringgit transactions for Korean issuers last year.

Perhaps it is Joo's ability to think out of the box that has caught the attention of Montag, although, in the memo, the global markets head stressed some of his new COO's other qualities.

"Mike's strong leadership abilities, client focus and global perspective will be vital as we manage and grow our businesses around the world. In particular, Mike will ensure strong connectivity with our activities in Asia, which continues to be an important growth area for global markets," Montag said.

Montag also noted that Joo will announce his new organisation shortly.

Before joining Merrill, Joo spent nine years at Credit Suisse where he was responsible for capital markets, M&A and derivatives coverage for Korean clients. He was also head of Korea capital markets, overseeing marketing and execution of all equity and debt capital initiatives. During his final few months, before joining Pratt at Merrill, he was co-head of non-Japan Asia DCM together with Ping Tan. Before Credit Suisse, Joo worked at Goldman Sachs as an analyst in the DCM group.

As of last night, it was still unclear whether BoA-Merrill will appoint anyone to take over Joo's responsibilities or whether they will be absorbed by the rest of the team. The firm's DCM franchise in the region is led by Rick Stoddard, who was appointed head of DCM for Asia-Pacific (including Japan and Australia) in late December last year.

The BoA-Merrill memo further noted that Mike Meyer, who had previously assumed the responsibilities of COO for global markets, will remain global head of sales and will also continue to oversee a business referred to as Fair Value Option.

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